Public health emergency announced and schools closed in British Columbia

A public health emergency has now been declared in British Columbia under the Public Health Act. This declaration results in broad emergency public health powers becoming available under the Act, including the authority for the Provincial Health Officer to issue verbal orders.

The Provincial Health Officer has ordered all bars and clubs to close immediately.

Businesses that remain open, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must take measures to ensure social distancing or to close if they cannot meet the social distancing requirement. Restaurants that cannot meet that requirement are to provide takeout only or to close.

The Provincial Health Officer has also now issued a formal written order requiring all individuals who have entered British Columbia on or after March 12, 2020, after travelling outside of Canada to self-isolate for 14 days. The Order includes specific details about the requirements of self-isolation. There is a limited exception recognized for certain essential workers. Essential workers who are identified by their employer for this purpose must comply with protocols established by their employer in accordance with parameters that are set out in the Order.

Previously, on March 16, 2020, the Provincial Health Officer issued an Order on Mass Gatherings that prohibits gatherings of over 50 people.

Government has also announced the closure of public and independent schools with suspension of classroom instruction until further notice. Most schools are currently on spring break but any currently open are required to close. Further information will be provided about distance learning and plans to support essential service workers such as health care workers, to continue to work if their children require care.

Note to our Readers: Information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. We are working to bring you up-to-date articles as the legal issues develop and to keep our previous posts updated. Given that the legal issues related to COVID-19 are constantly changing, if you are looking for legal advice or are dealing with an issue in relation to COVID-19, please contact your Harris lawyer or a member of our COVID-19 response team: Sari Wiens, Ilan BurkesNicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

To read our most recent articles and other updates on COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 Updates page.